When is a parody not a parody? When you are pitching against firms that deliver proposals that sound almost exactly like this "OnionTalk" from a "social media consultant."
The client's stated goal of a recent major social media campaign was "Get more Likes on Facebook than our competitor has." We went the extra mile to educate the client about building genuine relationships with customers. Unfortunately, there are lots of agencies more than happy to create social media campaigns that are one-way, media-buying centered.
A Few Select Quotes from the Onion's Expert
“Using your brain, and the skills to implement it, that's the old model. I’m a successful social media consultant, even though I’ve never had an original thought or idea in my life.”
"Companies don’t care if their followers are real or not; they’ll pay you either way."
"Ideally, real human users will leave social social networking altogether. And all that will be left will be thousands of robots talking to each other - who we can then advertise to. Now, robots don’t yet buy products. But that’s not our concern. In the new social media economy, you just have to keep look like you’re doing work, and people will pay you for it.
How To Tell Snake Oil from Real Strategy
It's actually pretty easy to tell when someone's selling you social media snake oil. These red flags apply whether you're talking to an agency about social media campaigns, mobile apps, a website, or SEO.
- They lead with a specific solution instead of asking a bunch of pesky questions. It's much easier, and more profitable, to resell the same strategy and solution over and over to a bunch of different clients. It's harder to think through how to meet specific business goals using innovative techniques, or learn new social spaces or tools.
- Success relies on making something "go viral." No agency controls whether something takes off. Your social media agency needs to have the flexibility to stop doing anything that's not working and try something else - over and over, until the campaign is reliably meeting its goals.
- Target metrics are easy-to-measure and easy-to-fake, like Likes and Followers, instead of measurable progress toward key business goals, such as directly attributable traffic, leads, and sales).
- The strategy relies heavily on paid media placement instead of interactions and content. Paid media is recurring revenue, and there's a markup, right?
- Most of the effort is centered in one social media presence point. It's easier for the agency to keep a campaign running in one or two easy-to-manage presence points (like Facebook and Twitter), and harder to run a cross-channel campaign and leverage the assets for use in other channels where they're not making money.
- The focus is on creative instead of interactions. Agencies love to create gorgeous media assets, and those are fine. But social media is a two-way channel, so make sure much of the budget is going toward building relationships, not creating eye candy that's fun and nourishing for designers to create but leaves you starved for results.
- There's no Quick Response Plan. Anytime you establish a channel of communication, people will use that channel for purposes other than those you expect. Every social media plan should include some effort to anticipate issues or events and think through who in your company will respond if things begin to click.
- They want to do it all FOR you, rather than WITH you. This is a biggie. This is your brand reputation they're playing with, your customers and prospects they'll be interacting with. Your business should be in control of those conversations.